5 Options for Former Packers Coach Mike McCarthy
The final month of the 2018 season has been a strange, haphazard journey for the Green Bay Packers and their fans.
The sudden dismissal of head coach Mike McCarthy meant offensive coordinator Joe Philbin became just the fifteenth coach in 100 seasons of Packers football.
While much of our coverage has been focused on the Packers search for a new head coach, fans who have spent over a decade watching McCarthy on Green Bay’s sideline are curious what lies next for him.
Here are the five best options for McCarthy as he moves forward in his coaching career.
Option 1: Sit out the 2019 NFL season
McCarthy was fired by the Packers with one year remaining on his contract, reported to pay the coach around $6 million. The Packers will pay the full amount to McCarthy if he decides not to coach in the NFL.
If McCarthy takes another job in the upcoming weeks, it’s likely the Packers will be free from their $6 million obligation. McCarthy’s contract is written so the Packers will only owe their former coach the difference in salary between what Green Bay committed to pay him and what his next team would pay him.
For example, if another NFL team signs McCarthy to a contract that pays him $4 million annually, the Packers would only owe McCarthy $2 million. It’s extremely unlikely any NFL team would pay McCarthy less than $6 million, however, given his pedigree as a Super Bowl champion and history of success with Aaron Rodgers.
Adam Schefter reported on December 23 that "it’s uncertain at this point whether McCarthy will immediately return to the head-coaching ranks."
In his farewell newspaper ad, McCarthy wrote:
From the beginning, Green Bay has welcomed me with open arms. I met my beautiful wife Jessica here and raised our family of 5 children who will always call Green Bay home.
McCarthy has six million reasons to stay around Green Bay, continue raising his family and recharge after thirteen challenging years coaching the Packers.
Option 2: Coach the Cleveland Browns
McCarthy’s top option of the expected NFL teams looking for a new head coach would be the Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has steadily improved as a rookie, and the Browns seem to have finally found some stability with general manager John Dorsey.
Dorsey spent nearly two decades with the Packers front office before being hired as the Kansas City Chiefs general manager in January 2013.
A January 2017 report suggested Dorsey and McCarthy have a close friendship, as Dorsey bought a house in Wisconsin vacation destination Door County in 2016 near the McCarthy’s.
Perhaps the only aspect keeping McCarthy from the job in Cleveland is the unknown influence of assistant general manager Eliot Wolf in the search.
Wolf interviewed for the general manager post in Green Bay before ultimately losing out to Brian Gutekunst. For years, many connected to the Packers speculated Wolf was the presumptive next general manager when Ted Thompson departed.
It’s intriguing, then, that Wolf would end up as the third choice for the job behind Russ Ball and Gutekunst. Given McCarthy was involved in the general manager interviews, would Wolf be in favor of hiring McCarthy after losing out on a job that seemed like a sure thing?
Option 3: Coach the Arizona Cardinals
A new general manager often brings significant change with him, both to the roster and the coaching staff. Gutekunst’s first Packers squad returned just 19 of the 53 players on 2017’s Week 17 roster. Thanks to an unconventional power structure, Mark Murphy – not Gutekunst – had the power to fire McCarthy, keeping the long-time coach in place for the 2018 season.
Had McCarthy not returned this past season, Adam Schefter reported that Packers assistants believed he would be interested in the Arizona Cardinals job.
The Cardinals are expected to fire their head coach after a single disappointing season, and NBC Sports’ Peter King reported McCarthy "likes Arizona and would be interested in exploring the job." King also believes the Cardinals are interested in McCarthy, too.
McCarthy isn’t the first former Packers coach to flirt with Arizona. Shortly after being fired by Green Bay in 1984, Bart Starr was named coach and director of football operations of a proposed expansion team called the Arizona Firebirds. The St. Louis Cardinals moved to Phoenix, nixing the Firebirds franchise before it started.
Option 4: Coach the New York Jets
The Jets also have a budding star rookie quarterback, and the organization will fire head coach Todd Bowles after the season’s end.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote that New York has "done their research" on McCarthy and value his experience and ability to assemble a talented staff of assistants.
It’s unknown whether the Jets will hire an experienced head coach like McCarthy or Jim Caldwell or try their hand at a young, trendy offensive assistant. The New York market presents unique challenges, and it’s unknown whether McCarthy would consider coaching in the Big Apple.
Option 5: Wait until McCarthy’s dream job opens up
The Packers have been notoriously coy over McCarthy’s tenure at revealing just how much the head coach was being paid. Conservative estimates based on ESPN and Journal Sentinel reports when he signed contract extensions put his career earnings around $65 million.
That kind of generational wealth affords McCarthy the luxury to pick and choose his next coaching job, if he even wants to coach again.
McCarthy’s parents raised Mike and his four siblings in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Greenville, where his parents lived in the same house for over four decades. In his twenties, McCarthy worked the midnight shift on the Pennsylvania turnpike tollbooth to make ends meet.
The Steelers were McCarthy’s favorite team growing up. While he met his wife in Green Bay, his family is in Pittsburgh. If you read between the lines on most features written about the coach, it seems like if you caught McCarthy in an honest moment the coach would admit the Steelers are his dream job.